Friday, March 30, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 2

Before we dive into the how to of raising children we need to gain some helpful Biblical foundations.

Proverbs 1:20-33 says Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Notice that Wisdom is crying out. We often make such a big deal about the wise man, whether he is a pastor, an author or the Dalai Lama. We think wisdom is so difficult to find and to hold onto that it is out of reach for the common man. Of course, this is not true. The Scriptures tell us that wisdom is crying out. She is yelling into the mean streets for someone to hear her. She earnestly desires that someone would heed so that she could impart her riches.

The point here is that Wisdom can and ought to be found. The sad fact is that many, especially the young and foolish disdain Wisdom and follow after their own selfish desires. But we must remember that Wisdom is crying out and our job is to have ears to hear and hearts to obey. Wisdom is near you. Listen.

Contrast Wisdom’s plea above, and the seeming response of fools, to the Wisdom gained by the Proverbs 31 woman.

Prov 31:26-31 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

What is the difference? Why does one gain Wisdom and another disdain it? Of course, we can get into complex and often obtuse theological discussions about the divine election and the sovereignty of God but the plain facts are much simpler. One listened to the voice of Wisdom, the other ignored her. As a Christian parent, your job is to hear and heed Wisdom.

Running for Your Life-Part 9

When I hit the mile twenty-five marker, I began to experience something that is often talked about by many runners but seldom experienced, at least by me. I got the runner’s high. At least that is what I think it was, the runner’s high or the natural painkillers. Perhaps it was simply jubilation. Not sure exactly. All I know is that at that point, I was absolutely sure that I was going to finish. Nothing hurt. I was not really very tired.

Every few steps I would think of finishing and tears would well up in my eyes. I tried to block out the picture of the finish line in my mind and that only made me run faster. Not sure what my last mile pace was but I know it was my fastest, by far, of the last four or five. Probably around a 7:30. Fortunately, the Richmond Marathon finishes going down hill. To this day, my memory of finishing the race is going the opposite way of the direction the race actually finishes.
That is strange. I think I was having a very strange experience indeed.

The emotions of the last few miles continued to build as I came down the last few hundred yards. I have a picture of myself with a contorted tearful face as I came across the finish line.
As a former football player, and one who fashions himself a man’s man, I was a bit embarrassed. But only for a moment. As I stood there in my great heaves of sobs, I noticed the same thing going on around me with runner after runner. Here we were, finishers, survivors. Scattered here and there were battered but victorious warriors, a great number of them in tears, not because of pain but because of victory, because of achievement.

Since that first marathon, I have finished two more. Neither of them produced the same emotional state as the first. But in their own way, they did provide milestones of significant and meaningful personal accomplishment.

I have learned a few things since that first marathon. I have learned things about myself. I have learned some things about running. And from these, most importantly, I have learned some things about life.

You may never run 26.2 miles, but if you are reading these words, you are already in a marathon, the important one, called life. In all of your endeavors, as you run, remember that the second half is always downhill.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 1

Many parents today have their hands thrown up in the air. Or they are pulling out their hair or they are pulling out the hair of their young charges. They seem completely in the dark when it comes to raising children to be cheerful and well disciplined. The frustration level seems to be increasing all the time. While I like to think that the situation is somewhat better in Christian Churches and Christian homes, it is amazing to me how little Christian parents know about raising children to be godly, obedient, respectful and cheerful. There was a time, not very long ago, when this was the cultural expectation for all children.

I will be posting a series on Biblical Childrearing that I call "The Joyful Home." These are talks that I have given within our church or delivered elsewhere as a conference. I hope these posts will be helpful to parents as they seek to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The opening paragraph describes what many of us often see, exasperated parents and exasperated children. In fact, this state of affairs is now so common that it is seen as the norm. We often feel sorry for the mother of little Johnny who is having a coniption fit at Walmart, instead of blaming the mother and her abdicating husband and feeling sorry for Johnny.

If you are the mother or father of little Johnny, my purpose in these posts is not to make you feel bad. It is to give you hope and to begin to point you to the biblical answers and God’s promises to you and to your children.

The Church, your church, should be helping you along this path. It is one of the main responsibilities of the church and her ministers to hold out the promises of Jesus Christ to you and to your children. Because many pastors, elders and deacons have not believed these promises themselves and have lost their own children to the world, the flesh and the devil, they are no longer in a position to declare these promises to their congregations. Despite the failures of Christain leadership, God’s promises are to you and to your children.

The Lord does desire that your children grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and that they do lovingly and cheerfully embrace the kindness of God in Jesus Christ. But we must believe. We must believe in such a way that it affects the way that we live and move and have our being in Christ. Our belief must produce godly fruit. Here is the great part; all true belief does produce godly fruit. So, let us look at what God has in store for us as we raise our children to His glory.

Running for Your Life-Part 8

So, the real struggle set it. Every mile was a major victory. I mentioned that I was suffering ITBS but at the time, I had no idea what was going on. I tried to stop for a few seconds and stretch. I tried not stopping and just trying to keep the leg moving. But nothing much seemed to make a difference. The pain was there and continued to increase.

At this point there was emotion beginning to well up. It was emotion of failure. I had trained for the better part of a year for this all to watch it fritter away and so close to the goal. Each thought of quitting caused a wave of disappointment to attempt to make its way to the surface. With some great effort, I could still keep it down, keep it out of my mind but it would only take a little more pain to make the reality of the situation come crashing in. All the while, as these thoughts and emotions were wending their way through my system, my feet were also moving.

The finish line was getting closer. The thoughts of failure seemed to begin to diminish and they were being replaced by new thoughts of hope. Perhaps I was close enough to make it? I knew that if I could make it to the last mile that I would definitely finish. I could crawl a mile if I needed to. But I didn’t have to crawl. The old battered leg kept swinging around. Somehow the mile markers kept coming into vision, a surreal one at that.

Over the last few miles new emotions began to make their way to the surface and these were much harder to suppress. I was no longer emotional thinking about failing, about quitting. Quite the contrary, I felt quite confident that I was going to finish.

Visualization is a great athletic discipline. See yourself hit the ball. See yourself succeed. See yourself finish. That’s all well and good. However, it became a real problem for me the last three miles of the race. Every time I pictured myself finishing, and I could hardly keep myself from thinking about it, a great huge sob attempted to break through my chest. To this day, it was one of the strangest things that I have ever experienced.

No doubt the causes were several fold. I was exhausted. I had little control of my emotional or bodily functions. I had overcome the pain of injury and pressed through. I was about to accomplish something that many people only dream about. All of this was going on at the same time and it was simply overwhelming.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Running for Your Life-Part 7

When I run it is always a great relief to get to the half-way point. I am a fairly avid runner. I have completed three marathons and numerous ten to thirteen mile races. To the non-runner this may sound quite impressive. The idea of running 26.2 miles sounds, not only impossible, but perhaps even absurd. Most people imagine doing a marathon as the ultimate self punishment. And while that is true to some degree, it is also hard for a runner to convey to a non-runner the sheer euphoria and finishing the distance.

In my first marathon, several years ago, I was utterly unprepared for the emotions that accompanied the run. I am not an overly emotional person, so I was surprised that over the last four miles or so I was near an emotional meltdown.

The meltdown was nearest the surface every time the thought of finishing the race came to mind. The race had been quite easy for fourteen or fifteen miles. I had had a brief energy low around mile ten but that was taken care of with a couple of energy gels. But as far as hardship or pain, nothing much happened until around mile sixteen. At that point, I began to have some discomfort in my knee. Or was it my hip? Or the side of my leg? I couldn’t quite tell. The pain moved around from spot to spot. Then blisters formed on my toes and I forgot about the pain in my knee for a mile or two.

Around mile seventeen, my running partner helped me out by begging off a few aspirins from another runner. I think that helped some, at least mentally. But after a couple of more miles, it became clear to me that something was wrong and it was not going to get better. The pain in my knee, or my hip, or my leg, really all of the above, began to get worse. I was still able to run but my gate was beginning to suffer a bit and this just exacerbated the problem. By mile twenty-one I was beginning to have some serious trouble. My right leg was not working too well. Although I probably was not swinging it around to move it forward, that is what it felt like.

You runners have probably diagnosed my problem. It was illiotibial band syndrome (ITBS) and it was fairly severe. I was getting tired and my leg was not working. I needed to stop at aid stations, briefly, to get a drink but stopping was a problem. Actually, stopping wasn’t so bad. It was getting going again. It hurt. A lot. But once I got going, I could keep my leg swinging and keep my feet moving forward.

At mile twenty-two, I had a decision to make. My faithful running partner was being held back because of me. He was fairly fresh and feeling good. I was not in bad shape, as far as wind, or exhaustion but the leg was continuing to deteriorate. If I encouraged him to go on, maybe I wouldn’t finish. But if I held him back, he would not finish the way he had trained. He was reluctant to go. He wanted to stay and help me along but I insisted and he left me at mile twenty-two.

After running that far, you may think that four measly miles is a cinch. However, as many of you know, the thing that makes a marathon a marathon are those last few miles. Up to twenty, it is the realm of many men. After twenty, it gets interesting. The last few miles can be brutal, especially if you have an injury, or pain. I had both.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Running for Your Life-Part 6

Are these events artifices of life? Or are they, rather, snapshots of life? This is living and for many young men and women, the difference between life and death. Even as I pen these words, some of the magic of those days returns to me. So does the disappointment and the pain. By the grace of God, from these sports moments and others like them, I have learned more about living, than from any other single circumstance, event, or person.

That may seem strange to you if you are being raised in true wisdom, with godly and wise parents, in a good church, with many faithful teachers. But for many of us, the athletic field was our best teacher. Coaches became mentors and the practical lessons they taught us were driven home daily in practice and more acutely on Friday nights.

Later in life, as I began to learn more about Scripture and living out the wisdom found there, I realized the immense reservoir of practical application that I had learned growing up playing football, baseball and running. The things that I learned there were not about being there, in a game. They were about being here, in real life.

Now we come full circle. This book is not about sports, per se. It is not about running. Not really. It is about living, learning, hurting, persevering and finishing. Anybody can start the race. Just show up. It takes a man to finish.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Communion Mediation-Dead Fathers

John 8:51-58 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

The point here is that Jesus is life and they cannot see it. Life is standing before them and they cannot see Him. Yes, Abraham died. Yes, the prophets died and they offered words of life. But, now, the very Word of Life is standing before them. These skeptics liked to honor their dead father’s tombs, precisely because they were dead.

Jesus calls us to another level of faith. We have a great heritage in the reformed faith. Our forefathers were blessed of God to see truth in the Scriptures that had become rarely taught or believed in the church. They also corrected many errors that had crept into the practice of the church.

Some of these errors were in the Lord’s Supper. They corrected misunderstandings and superstitions. We are thankful for that and want to uphold that heritage. But then a tradition grew up around the careful fencing of this table to keep out those who would profane it or to protect those who might eat and drink damnation to themselves. In some churches, even taking communion became a very rare practice, perhaps once a year. And this was defended as a high view of the sacraments. Is that not odd? Not taking the Lord’s Supper is defended as thinking highly of the Supper?

Obviously something got messed up along the way. Maybe it was logic class. What do they teach them in these schools? It was also defended as descending from our reformed fathers. But this is not true. Luther and Calvin had a very high sacramentology. Perhaps we disagree with Luther, somewhat, but he was trying to maintain a high view of communion with God, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. But Calvin also had strong views about the very real presence of the body of Christ in the Supper.

My point in relating all of this is that we ought to see Jesus, the very Word of Life, when He is standing before us. He is here. He is in this meal. He offers us Life. In denying superstition and misunderstanding, we need to make sure that we do so in a way that is consistent with Jesus and not in building the tombs of our dead fathers. When we take and eat and drink, believing, we have the very promises. God is faithful.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Running for Your Life-Part 5

In my youth, there were some of Springsteen’s Glory Days. And there were moments of intense failure. Many who never play sports cannot relate to this. They think sports are silly or a mere artifice of life, an escape from reality.

Tell that to a ninth grader that just put one out against the ace of the league. Tell that to a sixteen year old facing future major leaguer, Charles Kerfeld, a 6’6”, 245 lb., mountain of a boy, we called Magilla Guerilla. He threw a 95 mph fastball in American Legion ball. Scared? Don’t ask. Talk about waiving at fastball and bailing on a curve. Are you kidding?

Tell that to a sophomore, who earned a starting position, only to have his ankle blown out. That same boy crawled to the kitchen in the middle of the night for more aspirin. He was crying. But in order to understand those tears you have to understand the desire to play so bad that tears are an easy part of not getting to. It is not the physical pain. It is the failure to achieve what is set before you.

Tell that to a high school senior, after getting a bottom of the seventh game- winning hit off the best pitcher in the southern conference, for the second game in a row. Tell that to the same boy when the coach of the same team refuses his pitchers to throw him a strike in the playoffs in order to go to state. Tell that to the starting running back pulled from the game after two fumbles in the first quarter when his college football player brother had traveled down to see him play. Tell that to the entire team that beat Borah High for the first time in 26 years, to make it to the state championship. Tell that to the frustrated running back, beaten and bruised at halftime in a 35-0 debacle of a state championship. We went on to lose 55-13.

It was just a game. But it wasn’t. It was our lives. What is more, as I look back over time, over these events of my life, I realize that it wasn’t just a game, and it wasn’t just my life. All of those events are part of my life, now, twenty-five years later. They are part of who I am and they are part of who I will be twenty-five years from now.

Exhortation-Imagine That

It is good that we are here this Sunday morning. It looks as if we have entered a fine building, one made by craftsman, skilled in beauty, a building prepared by the sweat and toil of many men’s hands. It is good to be the recipients of such hard labor. They worked and we get to enjoy. But looks can be deceiving.

We are not actually where you think we are. We are here but here is not the place you think it is. We make distinctions between holy and unholy, between sacred and secular, earthly and heavenly. And this is very understandable because the unholy world is such a contrast to our Holy God, the sacred nature of Christ and His kingdom is opposed to those who rule in Earth from Earth. But something strange is going on here this morning and you should know about it before we go very much further in our service. It is almost like science fiction. It is similar to imaginative literature, perhaps like a fairy tale, or even fantasy. For in those places of fancy, the fantastic often presents the real. Imagination and fancy can help us escape from our world, true, but they can also help us see things as they ought to be or even as they really are.

This is the something strange that is happening this morning. It happens every day, really, but on this day, the fantastic is even more pronounced, more magical than perhaps any other day. For, on this day, we expect fancy. We come to mystery. We experience that which seems outside the realm of experience. And we are told to hear God when men speak, we are told to believe that we are new men and women, we are told to eat Christ and drink His blood. This things seem unreal to us, mere metaphors of something other earthly, something waiting for us but not apprehended. But the surreal is not always unreal.

This is nothing less than the collision of heaven and earth but not a heaven and earth that are opposed to one another. It is more like lovers that are on a collision course with destiny. When they finally overcome separation, longing, waiting, and arrive at the altar together and then the marriage bed, the collision of two makes one and the one is more than the two, even though the two remain.

We are here, in a building made with hands inside a building made without hands. That is, the kingdom of God, which grows from a small rock to a great mountain that fills, not all of heaven, but all of earth. We are to see ourselves in heaven, not up there, away from earth, but heaven come here to invade the earth in a new and mighty creation. Heaven has swallowed earth, not to erase earth but to make earth a part of heaven. So, we are here in earth in heaven.

Let us remember, then, that we have come here, not to escape our humanity, not to imagine some other worldly existence but, rather, to become fully human. For Christ, as the first fruits of humanity, has brought us into Himself that we might partake of His glory. This means leaving the fleshly behind. Not leaving earth behind nor our bodies behind but leaving behind all things that rebel against the new humanity that we are in Christ.

It is fitting then that we confess our other worldliness, whether rebellion against Christ or even and unbiblical rejection of the world that Christ so loved and came to save.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Running for Your Life-Part 4

The preacher says that to get wisdom in the better than gold. Few men believe this today. As a result, many strive after wind and reap the whirlwind but the wise man gains wisdom and understanding. He profits from it far more than the man who gains the whole world and yet forfeits his own soul.

So, this book is not about running, really, or sports or the many and even sometimes hokey clichés that develop in all of these areas. This book is about life. For those of you who have done much living at all, you will realize that life is like a sporting event. A lot of ink has been spilled making the comparisons and many have benefited. I, myself, have benefited.

Growing up, most of what I learned that was worth learning, I learned on a sporting field. It was there that I learned about pain, perseverance, failure, success, and sorrow. It was there that I had some of my most exhilarating success and some of my most disappointing failures. The old thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We say this, sometimes jokingly, but we mean it and it is more than just an old sports story that we tell. For many of us, the lessons learned on those fields or courts, are the very lessons that helped to carry us through times of immense tragedy. Or to help give us ballast and a reality check in a time of an extraordinary mountain top experience. We know that defeat is not necessarily failure. We know that that kind of disappointment feels better tomorrow. We know that the highest exhilaration must wake up tomorrow and go to work, or feed the dog, or empty the trash.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Running for Your Life-Part 3

In most Olympic sports, the number of athletes that can actually compete for the gold is quite small. Most of them are competing for third place, at best. Or perhaps in realizing their own pecking order, they are simply trying to beat another runner, or wrestler, or archer that usually beats them by a mere step, or point, or inch. And this happens, where most of the action happens, in the middle of the pack.

Nobody ever hears about these athletes. Some of them deserve their anonymity. They had the skill but not the will to be on the top podium. They had talent for gold but settled for showing up.

However, at the Olympic level, the majority of the middle of the packers or even the back of the packers, are over achievers. Their sweat, toil and sacrifice equals or exceeds that of those on the podium.

Most of us relate to them much better than the gold medallist. We do not possess the elite skills, whether in athletics or in any other area of life. We are not the genius innovator. We were not at the right place at the right time. We were not born into privilege. We find ourselves competing in life somewhere in the middle of the pack. But we have come to realize that the race is every bit as interesting and competitive here in the middle than there, at the front.

I suppose you are somewhat of an athlete or you probably would not even have read this far. I plan on using sports metaphors throughout this book. Many of the things that I have to say are already a part of the culture that we live in. This is why we have clichés. They are truisms. Sure, sometimes they are trite. They can be used inappropriately or by overuse, can be rendered meaningless. But clichés are clichés for a reason. They pack an intuitive wisdom that embodies the common understanding of a people. They enable us to relate to one another and say a great deal with few words.

The wise man is not so much the one who creates but the one who imitates. This is encouraging for us middle of the packers. We do not have to be a genius, the innovator, the enormously naturally gifted. We can just recognize who is, take his good idea, embrace the truth of it and learn and apply wisdom. Through imitation of excellence and wisdom, we can achieve far more than we think we can. This is the essence of true success; doing more than you thought yourself capable.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Running For Your Life-Part 2

Yet, this fact of being a mediocre sprinter is one of the great things about endurance running. Most people are naturally too slow to be serious sprinters. While you can improve a little with training, the fact is that you are born fast, or not. Not much you can do about it.

While this is somewhat true for world class distance runners, the same mechanics do not apply to distance running as apply for sprinting. It is true that very few people possess the natural ability to be an Olympic level miler, 10 K runner or marathoner. However, the tens of thousands of people who could never run, even a twelve second 100 meter, no matter how hard they trained to be able to do so, can break a 4 hour marathon or even a 3 ½ hour marathon, or even faster, with simple, consistent training. In marathoning, 3:30:00 seems to be a barrier for many people. In any given larger marathon race, there are a host of individuals attempting to break 3:30:00. From 3:30:00 down to 3:00:00, the barrier points seem to increase in size dramatically. Very good runners are needed to break 3:15:00. Only a fairly elite group can break 3:00:00. But at 3:30:00, there are many thousands of runners capable of achieving this worthwhile goal.

This opens up an enormous area of potential running success and accomplishment for an entire world of cross over athletes as well as Johnny come lately runners. Many marathoners are people that did not do athletics in high school. Many capable marathoners, those in the 3:30:00 range, are people like me, who never ran more than two continuous miles before the age of thirty. Some highly accomplished marathoners did not even run start running until after age forty.

Okay, so I said that this was not a book about running. I meant it. Really. In fact, my contention is that running is not even about running. Running is just an excuse to accomplish something. Granted, there are many different levels of accomplishment. For some, it is getting out of the office. For others, losing a little winter fodder. Others find an enormous challenge in pursuing that great goal of finishing a marathon. But all of these have something other than running as the end in mind. Running is a tool. Since this is the case, I hope that what I have to say here can transfer into other areas of life that are important to you. Perhaps your area of interest or hobby provides some of the same aspects of focused vision, escape, mental or physical health, or accomplishment that running does for me. I trust you will see that what I am talking about here is life.

Write Wright Right

Just had the opportunity to hear three lectures from Bishop NT Wright. The talks were excellent in nearly every way. The issues for 'nearly' are significant but ought not to overshadow a truly wonderful speaker, scholar and churchman. The reason behind the issues for 'nearly' are obvious to me. He is English.

Wright has many supporters and a great number of detractors. Some of each were in force as he spoke at Roanoke College on Friday and again at the Church of the Holy Spirit on Saturday. Both talks are available for free download here and here.

Wright has so many obviously good things to say. I suppose the fact that some ultraconservatives think that he is a liberal and that some ultraliberals think that he is a bit of a fundy is a good sign. It is sometimes very telling to know who one's enemies are. I have read a bit of Wright, not a lot. Of what I have read, several articles and a couple of books, I have found nothing objectionable. However, my own beloved Pastor Douglas Wilson even feels compelled to right NT wrongs. I respect Wilson, a great deal, so I suspect there are some issues here and there with Wright. But overall, Bishop Wright is a great blessing to the church and perhaps the last hope, outside of heaven, for reformation and revival in England. Pray for him.

Wright was speaking on the Resurrection. For Wright, as for the Bible, the Resurrection is more than just a future hope at the end of time, or bringing it closer to home, it is more than simply a hope of heaven. The doctrine of the Resurrection is eschatology proper.

Many Christians get flustered when discussing eschatology. What view are we to have of the end times? Pre-mil, post-mil, a-mil, or pan-mil? You, know, pan-mil, right? Don't really care about the millenium, I just know that it will all pan out in the end.

Wright's closest millenial position would certainly be post-mil. He has a wonderfully optimistic view of the gospel. Jesus is Lord of all, heaven and earth. He is the first fruits of the Resurrection, not just for me, personally, but for all of humanity, and for all of the earth. Wright is closest to post-mil but he does a good job of not reading more into Scripture than is clearly there. He presents a very post-mil kind of view of the future on earth while at the same time admitting that the view is like looking up the road towards a fog. It is fairly clear here and will be much more clearer there but from hear it is not yet clear what is up there. I think this is better than some of the dogmatic post-millenial assertions that are sometimes made.

If New Creation in Resurrection is what the Bible teaches, and I conclude with Wright, that it does, then we are not allowed to have a pan-mil position. Our eschatology turns out to be, not an aside that I can take up or leave resting, but, in fact, the central issue of the New Testament, and for that matter, the entire Bible. Without getting eschatology right, we cannot fully understand what the New Testament is about. We might get some of the sub-themes correct but we will not get the overall broad story correct. And if this is the case, then we are very liable to also mess up on the sub-themes and applications. We may get them right but we also may not interpret them correctly in light of the broader view. Missing the forest for the trees. Identifying trees incorrectly because you do not know the habitat, the forest. That sort of thing.

My contention is that for the most part, Wright writes right. He is a great blessing to the church and is being dramatically used to advance proper thinking of Christ and His kingdom.

I was particularly encouraged to see about 1500 people turn up to hear him on Friday night and another 350 or so on Saturday morning. I knew very few of these people. Not very many of them were from my conservative circles. Many of them were Episcopalian or Lutheran. Is this not a wonderful work of God that so many people are hearing great teaching and gaining a fuller view of God's work in the world? I applaud Wright and pray blessings upon his head.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Running For Your Life-Part 1

Starting is easy. Everybody can do it. All you have to do is show up. The gun goes off and away you go. In a running race, the start is particularly invigorating. You are surrounded by a mass of healthy bodies who are fresh and excited.

Almost everyone starts off too quickly. It usually only takes a few hundred yards to realize this fact. You are in good shape but the pace is beyond what you have trained for. Your heart rate powers up too quickly and you begin breathing hard.
In a short race, say a 5K, this is not too big of an issue. You planned on pushing it harder than your long runs anyway and expected to be out of breath. Anybody can suck gas for 20-25 minutes. So you push through.

But if your race is a marathon and you are out of breath at the half-mile mark, the thought can be daunting, even overwhelming. Slow down. Pace is key. But don’t sandbag. Run what you have trained for. You have got over three and half hours of running to go. So, catch your breath. Make it half way. It’s all down hill from there. Down hill. On the back side. Going home. These are things that help you make it through the pain of the harder part. Sometimes it is merely tricking yourself that the first part was hardest. Maybe it was. Probably it wasn’t. But now you know you can make it and every step brings you one step closer to home. So, you keep it up and you finish.

This book is not really about running. Of course, running is the theme. Running is the trainer. Running is a tool. Stay with me and you will see that this book is about life. As is running or whatever endeavor you have found that makes you, not only who you are, but enables you to press beyond the exigencies of every day living, to that something beyond which gives meaning and joy to the mundane.

I picked up endurance running almost by accident. In high school track, I was a sprinter. A hard workout for me was five three hundred meter sprints at top speed. Three quarters around the track in thirty-nine seconds. Repeat it five times. Puke your guts out. I thought it was hard then but now, as I look back, we had it pretty easy.

Even then, we sprinters always shuddered at the workouts of the one and two milers. Their speed days consisted of twelve four hundred meter sprints. Their sprints were not exactly the same as our sprints but they ran them hard and they ran a lot of them. On their distance days, they would go out and run six or seven miles. This seemed completely absurd to us sprinters.
We could not comprehend running that far. Not ever. Not under any circumstances.

In winter track, the coaches would haul us out to the country for a little conditioning. Our distance runners would do four miles and the sprinters would usually run fartleks. This consisted of walking from one telephone pole to the next, then jogging to the next one, then a full sprint to the next one. We never did this for more than two miles. Even when we did slow distance running, the sprinter’s distance was just two miles.

The first time I ran two miles without stopping, I thought I had accomplished a tremendous feat. It seemed a very long distance and I was surprised that I could do it. My brother, our top sprinter, was impressed. When it came to distance, he ran slowly, slowly, so impressing him that way was fairly easy. Alas, I had the curse of mediocrity. Too slow to compete in the 100. Too fast to compete in the mile. But I am not alone. Ninety-five percent of the athletes on our track team were in the same boat. They were not the fastest sprinters. They were not the great endurance runners. They were just filler, like me. Good for training and perhaps a relay team but would never be the excellent individual runner.

I'm Back


I've not kept up very well with my goal to post at least three times per week. My Exhortation and Meditations for church have made it but not much else.

I've got a bit of an excuse. I was sick, as was most of my family. Out with flu. Pretty much down and out, as a group, for two weeks. I've got other good excuses but excuses piled up, start to smell funny.

I've got a bit of a project that I am going to try in order to force me to keep up some writing. I'm working on a book, of sorts. Not sure what it will be when all is said and done. I've got a few pages written. They are a bit wobbly, here and there. But I hope they are like those old Weebles, they wobble but they don't fall down.

Anyway, I suppose I'll let you be the judge. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Communion Meditation-Extravagant Love

John 6:4-13 4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. 5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

The disciples did not think that there was enough food to feed the people. Jesus knew that there was. He likes it when resources are low. He wants to teach us that if we have Him then we have all the resources that we need. But there is more than that. Jesus does not just want to teach us to get by on a little. Frugality is perhaps sometimes a virtue but not on a wedding day, not on a honeymoon, not on an anniversary. Jesus is not frugal when it comes to His bride. God forbid that He should be such a frugal minded husband. He loves to lavish His bride with good things. He gives her fine clothing.He fills her table. He adorns her with beauty and she is lovely for Him.

In this story, what the disciples have is enough. It is somewhat insignificant. Anything they would have had would have been enough. He also could have created something from nothing, for, that is what He in fact, does.

It is significant that there is a great excess in this story. Jesus did not just break bread and fish until everyone was full. He kept breaking after there was more than enough, such that there was excess. He was extravagant. There are twelve baskets left over. Enough to feed every tribe of Israel. In Christ, we are the New Israel and the Church has now become Israel around the globe.

Canaan is no longer the Promised Land. The entire world is the Promised Land. In Jesus, there is enough to feed them all from the River to the utter ends of the Earth. That is what we declare here. So, let us eat and drink in thanksgiving for God’s abundant provision of life to all the world in Jesus Christ.

Death to Life

Rev 21:5 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

We know that God has created. We know that in Christ, He has recreated. We see this truth presented to us clearly in the Scriptures. And yet, we also find in the world that all things are not yet completely new. We have the promise in the Spirit and the hope of the promise in future resurrection. But we now we see as in a mirror dimly.

Part of the great hope that we have is, not to be delivered from these bodies, but to have our mortality put on immortality. We want sin and death to be swallowed up in victory. God has told us that this is what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us on the cross. John Owen said that the cross presented to us the Death of Death in the death of Christ. But we do not yet see all things in subjection. The creation still groans. People still die. Sin, though condemned, still lurks. We suffer.

But we must remember that we, who are in Christ, are dead to sin. It has no power to condemn us. For we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, in Christ. And Paul says that we ought to therefore put to death the deeds of the flesh. We are dead to sin. And if we are not dead to sin, then we must die. And our life in Christ consists of this. We must learn to die continually. As we do so, conversely, we will begin to realize, even in our mortal bodies, the life of Christ that is being stored up for our immortal bodies.

So, we come to this time of confession, not dragging our feet, sullen and despondent, nor hopeless and feeble. But we come, even to repentance, in the power of the Holy Spirit. For, we must rely upon Him both to die and to live. And we must do both, identifying with Christ in His death. Really dying. And being raised to life in Christ in His life. Really living.

So, let us come to death that we might be raised up beyond it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Communion Meditation-Crumbs of Life

Matt 15:25-28 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

We have already noticed one important aspect of these verses in the Exhortation, earlier in the service. That is, that this woman compares herself to the dogs which eat from the Master’s table. She was a Gentile dog and therefore not part of the Covenant people of God. But we have also realized that Jesus was expounding the teaching that those who are true covenant members are those who believe like Abraham. Covenant connection to Jesus is by grace through faith.

This is Paul’s great driving point in Romans. It is a correction of the false assumptions of the Jews and a comfort to the fearful expectations of the Gentiles. God is righteous to Gentile and Jew alike, through His Son, Jesus Christ. So, all those who approach God honestly, looking for mercy in Jesus Christ, will find it. It does not matter where they were born or who their fleshly parents were. But they must all be children of Abraham, people who look to God in faith.

Another key point in these verses is the great faith of this woman. She was willing to eat the crumbs from the table of Jesus. Even His disciples were not willing to do that. They wanted to sit at His right hand and at His left at the banqueting hall of the great High King. But not she. She would rather be a dog beneath His feet than a great Gentile outside of His courts. She realized that anything He had touched was sure to bring life. Even a bit of crumb, a scrap from His table.

A bit of crumb, a scrap. That is what we eat here. A piece of bread. Hardly even a piece of bread. More like a piece of a piece, almost like leftovers or throw aways. But nothing that comes from Jesus is throw away. What comes from His table is life.

We have no right to be here. Not in our own name. Not with our family background. Not with our deeds. Not with our thoughts. But we are here and we would rather be here, at His table, than anywhere else. For He is here. And He bids us welcome and eat. Take hold of life. Take hold of hope. Take hold of healing. Take hold of Jesus.

Exhortation-Blessed Dogs

Matt 15:25-27 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.

Here, on the Second Sunday of Lent, it is good for us to think of ourselves as we really are. The Scripture is both alarming and comforting at the same time. It is this paradox of life in the Christian faith that is striking. We look at ourselves from one perspective and are disgusted. We look at ourselves from another perspective and are pleased. We look at God with a realization of our human condition and we shrink in fear. We look at God as the prodigal’s father and we are moved with fearless love.

So, what is our condition and what is our position before God? Shall we retreat? Shall we approach? Shall we be ashamed? Shall we be bold?

Let the woman teach us. She approached near to Jesus and called out to Him. However, He did not answer her. But she would not give up. She had come to realize that Jesus was her only hope. Even though she had no claim of birth, no claim of heritage, no claim of righteousness upon Him, still, she called out to Him. She came to Him. She needed Him. And if He could not help her, then no one could.

Jesus is rude to her and insults her and still she will not leave. He refuses to talk to her. He tells her that she is not among the favored people. And still she will not leave. She does not deny any of this. She knows herself. At least well enough to know that she cannot make claims upon Jesus. But she also knows Him well enough to know that He can be moved to mercy and compassion. Furthermore, she must have some inkling that He was treating her the way He was treating her precisely to pull out the depth of her desire and faith. She will not leave without the blessing. She will get what she seeks.

Finally, she compares herself to a dog that must survive with the scraps and crumbs that fall from the table. She knows that even crumbs from Jesus are enough and more to satisfy for life. Jesus marvels at her faith and grants her request.

So, we come to God. We realize that we have no other option. We are not worthy. We can make no claim on Him. We are but dogs, scavengers who can barely keep ourselves alive. But we know that even a scrap from Jesus is life from the dead. So, we come and we know that He will hear, He will bless, He will heal.

So, how do we come to God? What is our response to Him? We come humbly, in the name of Jesus, expecting a blessing, because of God’s mercy and refusing to leave until we get it. First, we confess our own condition. Then we call upon Him to hear and to heal. And He does so.